If we are to refine and sharpen our accuracy in representing the King’s proclamations, where does it begin? Context, context, context.
I live in a town reminiscent of The Andy Griffith Show. It is a wonderful, fast-growing community just outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Real estate is booming. Even small houses are selling for enormous rates. A little house in the middle of town recently listed for a huge asking price. I asked a real estate agent, “How can such a small house command such a large price tag?” His response, “Location, location, location. Location is everything.” In hermeneutics, we have a similar saying, “Context, context, context. Context is everything.”
I’d like to get into the nuts-and-bolts of a term we’re learning, hermeneutics. It begins with a proper study of context. The general idea is that we begin with a passage of Scripture. We want to understand how that passage fits within the larger section, the book itself, and Scripture as a whole. It’s best to work backward, actually: from the broader perspective (the message of the whole Bible) and focus-down toward the narrower (the specific meaning of our specific preaching-text). Let’s begin with that broader perspective, which we call “canonical analysis.”
The “canon” simply means the entire Bible. Canonical analysis, then, seeks to discover the controlling theme of the Bible. When God gave us the Bible, He gave it to us in chunks spread-out over time: 66 separate books written over a time-span of about 1500 years, but it is 1 story. He had a single purpose in mind. Our first task is to determine that purpose. Once we discover it, then we can see how our book (and, later, our preaching-text) flows from that single purpose. It functions much like the cue ball in the image above. The controlling theme is the driving force. Everything else takes its “cue” from it.
This controlling purpose must come to us “exegetically.” I discussed that term in a previous article. Simply put, it must spring forth (the “ex” in exegesis) from the text rather than be imposed “into” the text (the “eis” in eisegesis). Once everything is taken into consideration, the controlling theme that springs forth from the whole of Scripture is as follows: